Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Friday 05/17/13

Farm Bills Give Everyone a Chance to Squawk

Now that the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have passed their versions of the farm bill, it's time to cherry pick all the things people hate about the legislation.

My favorite complaint comes from some conservative groups, notably Heritage Action, an arm of the Heritage Foundation.

On Thursday, Heritage Action fired a shot across the bow of fellow conservatives who might think of bringing the farm bill to the floor in June. The legislation would get in the way of more important matters. According to an article in the Hill, Heritage "warned House GOP leaders Thursday not to bring controversial legislation like the farm bill to the floor because doing so would distract from the Internal Revenue Service and Benghazi scandals."…

Yes, legislating would distract from scandal messaging. We've come so far.

The Hill article cited Heritage opposes the bill because it doesn't go far enough in making cuts to programs such as SNAP. The bill would cut $20.5 billion.

On the left, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., ripped into cuts to SNAP.

“Trying to cut the deficit by slashing Food Stamps is counter-productive. It does more harm than good, especially to the millions of low-income families, seniors, and children who would lose access to Food Stamps. Cutting Food Stamps so drastically is a dereliction of our responsibilities to the American people. I hope my colleagues stand up for kids and families and oppose the cuts in this bill if it comes before the entire House of Representatives.”

Environmental Working Group went after Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., for his statements in the committee debate on SNAP while Fincher has collected "a whopping $3.4 million" in farm program payments since 1999.…

Speaking to Nebraska media on Thursday, Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., lamented the gimmicks in savings because the Senate farm bill --- and the House version --- both count $6.4 billion in savings from sequester into their budget accounting for 10-year cost projections. The Congressional Budget Office actually factored that it. Johanns also voted against the bill because of target prices.

"This farm bill, in my judgment, represents a step backward in farm policy," Johanns was quoted saying in the Lincoln Journal-Star.

North Dakota's senators also complained vehemently in AgWeek about tying conservation compliance to eligibility for crop-insurance premiums. Apparently, there are a significant number of farmers who have dropped out commodity programs in North Dakota so they can drain wetlands to farm. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., offered amendments to retract those compliance provisions in committee, but they were voted down. Hoeven said in the AgWeek article he hopes those compliance provisions can be decoupled in the conference negotiations given that the House bill doesn't have the same language. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, agreed with Hoeven. “North Dakota, unlike other states south of us, didn’t drain our wetlands in the 1930s and 1940s,” Heitkamp says. “We maintained the flyway and those prairie potholes and now we’re stuck maintaining the flyway for the rest of the country.” She says states such as Indiana, Kansas and Nebraska might think differently of conservation compliance if they had to “look back 50 years."…

Again, on the flip side the National Wildlife Foundation sent out a news release highlighting its concerns over the lack of the compliance provision in the House bill.

“We are very disappointed that Chairman Lucas chose to leave out this important provision supported by a broad coalition of conservation, agricultural and crop insurance interests,” said Julie Sibbing, director of agriculture and forestry programs at NWF. “Failure to link these longstanding requirements to crop insurance premium subsidies could destroy more than a million wetlands in the Northern Great Plains, putting at risk North America’s most important waterfowl breeding habitat.”

NWF added, "Furthermore, the House bill included a weak, geographically limited version of Sodsaver, which protects native grasslands by limiting federal subsidies for producers who convert previously unplowed prairie lands. The House version of Sodsaver is unfairly limited to parts of 5 states in the Northern Great Plains."

I can be found on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Posted at 9:05AM CDT 05/17/13 by Chris Clayton
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